The United Nations said last month that more than 5,000 people, including soldiers who have defected or refused to shoot on civilians, have been killed since protests began. The Syrian government dismissed that report, which did not account for any serving members of the military killed by opponents, as "incredible" and countered that 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed, according to BBC.
Previous speeches often included promises of reform, and in today's speech, Assad said a referendum on the Constitution and elections could be held this year. However, he also said any reforms made should not be in response to the uprising. "We should link what happened before the crisis and post-crisis and then embark on reform.... We shouldn't build our reforms on this crisis," he said, according to BBC.
Most promises of reform have not yet been fulfilled.
Assad also slammed the Arab League, accusing it of hypocrisy for lecturing Damascus on reforms and of abandoning its Arab identity by suspending Syria's membership in November. "The Arab League is no longer Arab; we should call it the 'Foreign League,' " he said, according to the Guardian's liveblog of the speech.